South­ern Myan­mar nears rel­e­ga­tion abyss

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - KYAW ZIN HLAING kyawz­inhlaing@mm­ GP W D L GD P

IN the sea­son’s penul­ti­mate week­end, many eyes turned to the bot­tom of the stand­ings to see whether South­ern Myan­mar could draw closer to neckand-neck ri­val Rakhine United in the race to es­cape rel­e­ga­tion along­side the hap­less Hori­zon squad.

After a goal­less draw against Chin United on Au­gust 14 at Thuwunna Sta­dium, how­ever, it looks like the game is up for the South­ern­ers.

Go­ing into the fi­nal week, they are ranked 11th of 12 teams, sit­ting three points back of their ri­vals and an­other year in the top tier of Myan­mar Na­tional League foot­ball.

A win would draw them even with Rakhine, but they lose the goal dif­fer­en­tial tie-breaker by a seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able tally: Rakhine boasts a -10, while South­ern Myan­mar suf­fers a -29. They need to win next week – by more than 19 goals – and hope that Rakhine loses if they are to re­main in the top di­vi­sion.

As such a mar­gin of vic­tory is un­heard of in pro­fes­sional foot­ball, it looks like the South­ern­ers will join Hori­zon in MNL-2 next year. The two teams lasted just one year in MNL, hav­ing been pro­moted in 2015 to the “big leagues”.

With noth­ing to lose, Hori­zon ac­tu­ally held its own against a des­per­ate Rakhine United squad on Au­gust 14 at Aung San Sta­dium, play­ing to a 1-1 draw un­der a cloudy sky. The un­der­dogs played hard, jump­ing to a one-goal lead at the 56th minute thanks to a bril­liant run from Liberian Martin Karndu. But Rakhine stormed back be­hind striker Dway Ko Ko Chit’s driv­ing goal in the 78th minute.

Af­ter­ward, Rakhine United de­fender Ndongo Serge Philippe said missed chances were to blame.

“We had chances and we didn’t score,” he said. “Every­one was feel­ing the pres­sure dur­ing the first half, I think, and in the sec­ond a lot of us made lit­tle mis­takes.”

He thanked the Rakhine fans for their “amaz­ing sup­port” and apol­o­gized for let­ting them down. Head coach U Win Tin echoed his sen­ti­ments, point­ing to the pres­sure of es­cap­ing rel­e­ga­tion as the rea­son be­hind his team’s first-half mis­cues.

“Hori­zon played well, even for a rel­e­gated team,” he said. “I think our play­ers had too much pres­sure com­ing in, but it worked out. Dway Ko Ko Chit’s ty­ing goal was life-sav­ing.”

Mean­while, at the top of the stand­ings, Yan­gon United topped Zwekapin United 3-2 to leap within strik­ing dis­tance of cur­rent run­ner-up squad Magwe FC. With 36 points, the Lions could steal sec­ond­place hon­ours with a win next week and a Magwe FC loss.

They turned in a spir­ited out­ing, as strik­ers Kyaw Ko ko and Adil­son com­ple­mented a sur­prise goal from de­fender Zaw Min Tun. Zwekapin came storm­ing back in the sec­ond half with two goals of their own, from Tin Win Aung and Mat­sumoto Ken. But it was too lit­tle too late.

Af­ter­ward, Yan­gon coach U Myo Min Tun said he had ini­tially planned to rest his star play­ers, such as Kyaw Ko Ko, to save them for the Aung San Shield tour­na­ment.

“I wanted to give them rest, but I couldn’t,” he said. “They did not per­form well to­day as a re­sult. But I’m glad we won. It was lucky.”

In other matches, cham­pion Yada­nar­bon beat Han­thar­wady United 3-1 at home in Bah­too Sta­dium on Au­gust 13. Ayeyawady United de­feated Ze­yar Shwe Myay 2-1 at home in Pathein as well.

A key run­ner-up bat­tle, Shan United vs Magwe, fin­ished in a goal­less draw on Au­gust 14 at Taung­gyi.

Photos: Face­book/MNL

South­ern Myan­mar will join Hori­zon, re­turn­ing to MNL-2 after a short-lived stint in the big leagues.

South­ern Myan­mar’s Htet Aung vies with Chin United’s cap­tain Chit Su Moe for a header in the match on Au­gust 14 at Thuwunna Sta­dium.

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